Sea Blue Lens

I’m Not Sorry


Starting Point

Starting Point

For the next lesson in my Find Your Eye: Journey of Fascination class, I’ve been asked to compare myself to my idea of a “real photographer” to see where I come up short in my own mind, and to think about what I reflexively apologize for about my photography. Oh, yes, and to stop doing that!

The first thing I realized is that my definition of a real photographer has changed over time. I used to think it was anyone who took better pictures than I did. And that was just about anyone. While I didn’t apologize for my photography, if someone complimented me on it I just sort of shrugged it off. I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence. Now I tend to think of a real photographer as a professional photographer — someone who makes a living — or at least has ambitions to — from his or her photography. That’s a more comfortable definition for me, because I have no desire to go pro, and therefore don’t have to compare myself to those people at all.

However, that’s really sidestepping the question, because of course I do have ideas about “real” (i.e., serious) photographers in the sense that Kat means it. They shoot with a top-of-the-line dSLR. They never go anywhere without a camera bag or backpack loaded with a camera or two, extra lenses, flash, filters, etc. They shoot RAW images, in manual, and always use a tripod. They process their images with the latest version of full-fledged Photoshop, not its little brother, Elements. They want to sell their work.

But that’s not me, and I don’t apologize for it. I have tried some of those things in the past; for example, loading all my equipment into a professional-style bag so I could carry it on a photoshoot. I can tell you that having all that weight on my shoulder took the joy out of photography and actually drove me away from it for quite some time. It was eventually buying a small point and shoot film camera that brought me back to the pleasure of taking pictures.

Now I have an excellent dSLR that I love, but I still often use a small P&S that slips into my purse. I seldom use a tripod because it’s just not my style. It’s too cumbersome and fussy for me. I love my Photoshop Elements; it fits my budget and along with Lightroom has all the features I need to handle my post-processing. I’ve still never tried shooting in RAW, since JPEG has been adequate for my needs. And — o, heresy — I shoot in Program or Aperture Priority mode most of the time. Sometimes even in Auto!

All this works for me, and needs no apologies. If it bothers someone else, I figure that’s their problem, not mine. That’s not to say that I think I’m a hot-shot photographer, or that there’s no room for improvement. The fact that I’m here, taking classes and striving to learn and grow, belies that. But I’m happy with who I am and where I am on this Journey. I can admire the work of others and even want to emulate it, without thinking that means there’s something wrong with me.

I think part of this new-found confidence comes with age. I’ve been through plenty and come out intact on the other side. The older I get, the less I care what others might think about me. Besides, one of my all-time favorite quotations is this from Ethel Barrett:

We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.

I am real and my photographs are a real expression of who I am. Therefore, I am a real photographer. There’s nothing to apologize for in that.

Note: That photo at the top? I took that with my very first camera, a piece of plastic junk that didn’t even last through one whole roll before the film advance knob broke. Though the image quality is lousy, I think I had a pretty good eye for composition even then. And that blurry image brings back to me the best summer I ever had.

I was eleven years old.


14 thoughts on “I’m Not Sorry

  1. What a fantastic post this is.
    Truly thought=provoking and wonderfully written.
    I truly enjoyed reading it, and I thank you.

  2. I think a real photographer is anyone that takes a photo that other people like. Or even that they themselves like! So you’re all set. 🙂

  3. Leon,

    I love what you wrote here! In particular I like this statement from you:

    “I am real and my photographs are a real expression of who I am. Therefore, I am a real photographer. There’s nothing to apologize for in that.”

    YES! This made me smile. There is nothing truer than that statement.

    You just keep on shootin’ girl. I don’t care what equipment or mode or software. Just keep on.

  4. I love your image and this post! I don’t shoot with a tripod either (too much faff!) and I know exactly what you mean about not always wanting to carry your gear – for this the iphone has really transformed things for me as it’s always with me and good quality (I loved it when Annie Liebovitz was asked which piece of kit she would never be without and she pulled her iphone out – hey if it’s good enough for Annie Liebovitz……!). I love that you are a ‘real’ photographer – I’m adopting that label too. 🙂 And the Ethel Barrett quote – fabulous.

  5. Wonderful photo journal! Your confidence shines through! I’m working on mine and I’m getting there! I love that you have your first picture! How cool is that!

  6. What a great post and so beautifully expressed, Lee! I am totally i synch with your thoughts here about “real” photographers. I got a new p&s when I lost my old one, and it goes with me everywhere. I do enjoy using my DSLR, but it’s coming out less and less. I just don’t like being weighed down by equipment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and your very first photo — so sweet!

    p.s. Are you not Lee, but Leon? My apologies!

    • Gina, I am Len (with an accent over the o) but usually go by Lee online because many computers can’t handle that accent. Sorry for any confusion. No apologies needed!


  7. No apologies, no doubts. You ARE a real photographer and I’m glad you’ve changed your definition to include yourself. Bravo!

  8. I really love that photo you shared! I think composition is everything and if you don’t have an eye for it then your photos won’t be great no matter what kind of camera you’re shooting with. I’ve seen some really amazing photos shot with phones and plastic pieces of junk. I enjoyed reading this. You are definitely a real photographer and no apologies are needed.

  9. This post is full of self-confidence about who you are as an artist. You have carved out your own photography path, picking and choosing what works for you based on what is important to your own journey. I loved seeing that first image – taken when you were 11 – foreshadowing the photographer you would become and are becoming.

    Note: I always shoot in Aperture Priority mode 🙂

  10. Lee! What a beautiful post! It brought tears to my eyes…both your writing and your image. I love your confidence and voice – so clear, so inspiring. You are most certainly a photographer…an artist! And, to tie it all back…to go full circle with the image taken by your 11-year-old self (what an eye she had!)…well…it’s all just truly gorgeous!

  11. So well said. I love that you still have that photo, stinks the camera broke on the first use.

  12. I love how I can hear your voice when I read your words. I also love that photo at the top and that you shared a starting point. Add a texture….jus’ sayin’, and just kidding.
    I like how you know what you know and what you need and where you are and you just don’t care about all the other crap. I’m not sure I feel that way myself. I feel like my goals are shifting, my skill set is in flux, my desires are uncertain, etc. I’m uncertain about lots of things tho, so that makes sense.
    Imagining you toting a big camera bag around….not a fit. I think you’re doing just what you should be doing. Well played my friend.

  13. Good for you! Love your 11 year old image & you sound so completely content with your photographic journey, which i think is the perfect place to be.

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